Hot Topics     Home and Family     Healthy Kids    

Liar, liar, pants on fire



Why kids lie, and how to deal with it

Why kids lie and how to deal with it


Almost as soon as children learn to speak, they lie. I know I did it, and my friends did it to varying degrees. My son and his friends did it. And it goes without saying that some people never stop lying, ever. But children lying can be disturbing. As Beth Arky writes for the Child Mind Institute, parents can “help kids find honest alternatives to bending the truth” if they can understand “why kids lie and be prepared to deal with the issue.”

It seems the many euphemisms for lying speak to the level of discomfort the concept evokes: fibbing, telling an untruth, a whopper, a tall tale, hagiography, a white lie.

Interviewee Matthew Rouse, PhD, a clinical psychologist at the Child Mind Institute, notes how the onset of lying can be sudden and intense: “It’s a new thing where they were pretty truthful most of the time before and then suddenly they’re lying about a lot of stuff.” I noticed this as a preschool teacher’s assistant, working with kids aged two to four. Usually around age three, the more verbal kids realize the quality of attention they receive when telling a story as “true” as opposed to “pretend.” And they lean in to that, insisting they did, in fact, have a pet dinosaur. For real! The unquestioning belief of slightly younger kids inspires them, of course.

READ MORE: Child Behavior: Should Parents Punish Children When They Lie?

Arky notes this as children trying out a new behavior. I.e., “they’ve discovered this novel idea and are trying it out, just as they do with most kinds of behaviors, to see what happens.” Dr. Rouse adds, “They’ll wonder, what happens if I lie about this situation? What will it do for me? What does it get me out of? What does it get me?’” Generally, Dr. Rouse says these lies can be ignored.

Another reason, which extends into adulthood, is to enhance self-esteem and gain approval. Arky writes, “Children who lack confidence may tell grandiose lies to make themselves seem more impressive, special or talented to inflate their self-esteem and make themselves look good in the eyes of others.” Like the preschooler who insisted he could jump as high as the roof, or the full-grown man who insisted he’d outrun the police. Reprimands and light punishments can discourage these lies.

If lies get out-of-hand, Dr. Rouse recommends talking to children about their lying, and praising the telling of hard truths. For repeated lying, consistent, non-negotiable consequences can help, like taking away their phone.

Probably the worst thing a parent can do is to lie to their kids, or to be seen lying or consistently over-exaggerating. Perhaps more than anything else, this will motivate the liar within.



Other articles by HVP News Reporters


  • View eagles in Mongaup

    Mongaup Valley Wildlife Management Area designated a Bird Conservation Area

    Mongaup was designated a Bird Conservation Area because of its unique combination of habitats important to bird species. read more »
  • Hike Smart & Be Prepared

    Safety tips for getting out in the winter months

    NYS DEC offers tips to keep you and your family safe while enjoying the outdoors this winter. read more »
  • Hudson Highlands Nature Museum’s Homeschool Naturalist Program

    Adventure Awaits Students Ages 6-9

    The Hudson Highlands Nature Museum’s Homeschool Naturalist Program for children ages 6-9 has quickly become one of the Nature Museum’s most beloved programs. Originally created out of the needs of families undertaking distance/learning, the program has proved so popular it has remained in place by demand. read more »
  • 5 ways parents can get prepared for student loan repayments

    Tips to help you survive student loan payments

    If you’re a parent who took out a federal student loan for your child and you’ve been taking advantage of the payment freeze as part of the COVID-19 emergency relief, then things are about to change. Starting January 31, 2022, payments will resume and no further extensions are expected. read more »
  • STEAM learning toys for your little ones

    Young kids have fun while learning letters and numbers

    Edx Education teaches letters and numbers through hands-on play read more »
  • DCP offers tips to help New Yorkers stay safe and warm

    NYS Division of Consumer Protection warns New Yorkers of carbon monoxide and fire hazards during extreme cold weather

    The New York State Division of Consumer Protection today issued a consumer alert about the dangers of carbon monoxide and fire hazards in extreme cold weather. The winter months pose the most risk for these hazards—as the temperatures drop, consumers may turn to dangerous heating alternatives to stay warm. Propane heaters, generators, space heaters and/or outdoor grills all pose lethal risks of carbon monoxide poisoning and fire hazards when used improperly. read more »
  • New gardening series with Newburgh Free Library

    Learn about herbs, microgreens, seeds, planning and planting

    Newburgh Free Library has a new gardening series starting with NUFFI, or Newburgh Urban Farm and Food, starting in February! read more »
  • Get up to 4 free at-home Covid-19 tests for your family

    The Biden Administration to Begin Distributing At-Home, Rapid COVID-19 Tests

    The Biden Administration is Buying One Billion Tests to Give to Americans for Free; Online Ordering of a Half-Billion Tests Begins on January 19th; Builds on Significant Actions to Expand Testing Capacity and Increase Access to Free Testing read more »
  • New York’s Going Foam Free in 2022

    NYS is working to keep our environment safe

    In 2020, New York State adopted the nation's strongest statewide ban of expanded polystyrene, single-use foam food and beverage containers, and polystyrene loose fill packaging materials, commonly known as packing peanuts. read more »
  • Sherman Artists Open Studio – This Weekend!

    Painters, photographers, mixed media, jewelers, fused glass, and fabric artists will open their home studios

    This weekend is the very first Sherman Artists First Open Studio! Fifteen local Sherman artists are participating in the Sherman Open Studio Tour on Saturday and Sunday, December 4th and 5th, 2021, 10 am – 4 pm. Painters, photographers, mixed media, jewelers, fused glass, and fabric artists will open their home studios or participate in pop-up studios read more »